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He leaned down and placed his lips over hers. Take it slow, he had to remind himself. This kiss had been a long time coming. Liam reached out and gently pulled her closer to him. Her lips were warm and inviting despite the frosty December temperature. The heady scent of lavender surrounded her. She was kissing him back with such tenderness it made him ache inside. He felt powerful emotions roar through him. His heart was soaring well past the safe boundaries he’d set for himself. It was way too late to guard his heart against this.

Ruby. His sweet, unforgettable Ruby.

“Liam,” she murmured against his lips as the kiss ended. He laid his forehead against hers, wanting to stretch out the moment until the stars were stamped from the sky.

* * *

Ruby couldn’t seem to stop thinking about the kiss she’d shared with Liam. She replayed it in her mind during the rest of the walk to the Moose Café, going over every nuance and small detail. Liam had been so tender and romantic. Her heart had done somersaults. It was her first kiss, after all, since she couldn’t remember another. And as first kisses went, it had been spectacular. Ruby had wanted it to go on and on, to savor the tender moment for as long as possible. She had known in the moments before he’d dipped his head that Liam was going to kiss her. Truthfully, she’d been praying he would do so.

Liam had kissed her! And she had joyfully kissed him back. His lips had tasted like cinnamon and sugar. His arms had been steady and sure. He smelled like fresh pine. And for the life of her, she couldn’t stop thinking about kissing him again.

From what she’d observed so far, Liam Prescott was a good man. Honorable. Faithful. True. And with every passing day, he was nestling himself further and further into her heart. The kiss had just solidified everything. Back in Denver she had dreamed about finding a man to share her life with. She had prayed to God to send her someone strong and loving and kind. Ruby looked up at the incandescent moon and felt a sweeping, soaring feeling rise inside her. At this moment she felt so happy she could almost soar as if on wings.

By the time Liam grasped her hand in his, Ruby wasn’t certain she could contain her feelings. She felt as if she might burst with happiness.

“You’re pretty quiet all of a sudden.” Liam’s deep voice intruded on her thoughts.

She looked over at him, admiring his strong jawline and the proud tilt of his head. Dr. Liam Prescott was an Alaskan hottie. And he was hers. All hers.

“I’m happy,” she said, knowing she was beaming. “Thank you for this wonderful night.”

Liam looked down at her, his handsome face lit with the same joy she felt. “The night’s still young, Ruby.” As he opened the door to the Moose Café and led her inside, Ruby found herself wishing that the happiness she felt at this very moment could last a lifetime.

Chapter Eleven

Considering it was a weeknight, the Moose was jumping. Although it was a tight crowd, Hazel managed to finagle a table for them so they could watch the show. Paige sat and joined them while Cameron was behind the scenes trying to ensure everything ran smoothly. The band from Kodiak had a big following, according to Paige. Cameron had said that some of their fans had even followed them to this gig in Love.

During the intermission, Cameron also came to join them at their table. He leaned over and pressed a kiss on his wife’s forehead. It wasn’t long before Hazel had pulled up a chair beside them.

“The band is the best we’ve had so far. And this place is filled to capacity.” Cameron’s face was lit like a kid in a candy store. Liam’s chest swelled with pride. His brother had made lemonade out of lemons and earned his success through ingenuity and hard work. Now he was reaping the rewards.

“Proud of you,” Liam said with a nod in his brother’s direction.

All of a sudden Jasper came barreling through the door like a man on a mission. His hair was sticking up and his expression bordered on wild. He reached their table in a few determined strides.

“All right, woman. I surrender.” Jasper held his hands up in the air. His voice was as loud as a foghorn.

Hazel gaped at him. “What are you talking about? Did you rob a bank or something?”

He heaved a tremendous sigh as if he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. “You’ve hounded, harassed, intimidated, finagled and bamboozled me all in your quest to coerce me into putting a ring on your finger.” He dug in his pocket and pulled out a wooden box. After fumbling with it for a few seconds he managed to prop it open. A beautiful diamond ring sat inside.

Hazel’s jaw dropped. She muttered something unintelligible.

Liam leaned in toward Ruby. “Oh, no. This is not going to end well,” he whispered. Liam made a slashing motion against his neck in the hope that Jasper would see his gesture and figure out his message.

Ruby bit her lip and looked at him with big eyes. “This is not the sort of proposal a woman dreams about,” she whispered back. “It’s really a stinker.”

All Liam could do was shake his head.

Everything hushed and stilled in the Moose Café. Everyone seemed to sense that a tornado was brewing. It was a good thing he and Ruby had decided to come by the café tonight. Jasper might very well need medical attention when Hazel got through with him.

Hazel stood and raised up to her full height. She was face-to-face with Jasper. “I’ve waited my whole life for this moment. I thought it would happen in my twenties, prayed it might happen in my thirties and despaired of it ever happening in my forties. Then in my late fifties I met you and I started to hope again. I fell in love with an ornery codger who can’t seem to see the forest for the trees. And up until this very moment, I was willing to forgive your idiosyncrasies. Jasper Alistair Prescott, I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last bachelor in Love, Alaska. I might not have all the answers, but I do know one thing for certain.” She sneered at him. “I deserve way better than a bootleg proposal.”

Jasper sputtered. “I—I gave you what you’ve been asking for, didn’t I? A proposal of marriage.”

“That wasn’t a proposal. It was a hatchet job!” Hazel roared.

Jasper scratched his head. “Didn’t you see the ring? I spent a small fortune on it,” Jasper shouted.

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